April 18, 2023 at 2:44 p.m.
Carbajal remembers military bond, law enforcement brotherhoodwith slain Deputy Owen
Albany Police Chief Ozzie Carbajal was among law enforcement officers in vehicles escorting the body of Pope County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua “Josh” Owen, in a flagged-draped casket in a black hearse, to Glenwood mid-morning April 17. Owen not only was Carbajal’s law enforcement brother, but a person with whom he had a military bond.
Carbajal has known Owen since 2002 when they both served with the Sauk Centre National Guard unit during a deployment in Bosnia. On April 16, Carbajal visited with fellow soldiers about their friend who passed away April 15 following injuries received during an exchange of gunfire with a domestic assault suspect in Cyrus.
“He was the best of all of us,” Carbajal said. “Josh was never angry. Always smiling. He had this infectious laugh that was unmistakable. You could hear him everywhere. ... You know how you say he was a really nice guy, he was a really nice guy.”
According to the Pope County Sheriff’s Office, shortly before 7:30 p.m., April 15, officers from the Glenwood and Starbuck police departments and the Pope County deputies were dispatched to a Cyrus residence on a domestic call. At one point during the attempted arrest, there was an exchange of gunfire between officers and a man at the home. One Starbuck officer and two Pope County deputies were struck by gunfire. The Starbuck officer was injured but was not hospitalized. One deputy was treated for injuries and released. Deputy Owen was transported to Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood in critical condition and later passed away from his injuries.
The suspected shooter was also struck and killed during the exchange of gunfire.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the incident. Names of the other individuals involved have not been released.
Owen was a Pope County deputy close to 12 years and had built a bond with his K-9 officer, Karma.
Pope County Sheriff Tim Riley paid tribute to Owen April 16 during a press conference.
“Yesterday, April 15, Pope County law enforcement lost a brother,” Riley said. “Our sympathies and love are with Deputy Josh Owen’s family, and families of the other deputies and officers involved.”
Owen, who died on his 44th birthday, is survived by a wife and son.
“Deputy Owen had a heart as big as his stature,” Riley said. “He loved his family, his brotherhood and his community.”
Owen was a 1998 graduate of Albany Area High School and had been a student there since about ninth grade.
“He had a laugh that could make anybody laugh,” said classmate Kurt Richter, of Albany. “He would do anything for anybody.”
He last saw Owen around 2017 when Richter was working in Glenwood.
“Somebody said, ‘Hey, Kurt,’ and I turned around and it was Josh,” Richter said.
Richter was among the classmates and Albany emergency personnel on the Albany overpass Monday morning as law enforcement vehicles escorted Owen’s body in a hearse down Interstate 94.
“The eyes were definitely watery,” he said.
Carbajal, who has been Albany Police Chief since 2012, was surprised to find out he was an Albany graduate. It was simply something they never talked about.
Carbajal called Owen a good soldier.
“He never complained a lot,” Carbajal said. “That wasn’t his nature.”
Carbajal said within the law enforcement community, you are a “brother doing the same thing and risking our lives, but that bond it so much stronger in the military when you are away from home, in a foreign country, and experiencing things and all you have is each other.”
Carbajal said they hung out a lot when deployed and played sports, although “Josh wasn’t much into sports.”
He last saw Owen close to five months ago.
Carbajal received a phone call late Saturday night informing him about the shooting of three officers in Cyrus.
“The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Was it Josh?’” Carbajal said. “I prayed and said, ‘I hope everybody is OK.’”
In his 25th year in law enforcement, Carbajal admits there is always that lingering feeling in the back of his mind if his phone rings after 10 p.m. He figures he has responded to thousands of domestic calls during his career.
“What people don’t understand is we’re not doing this for the money,” he said. “We’re doing it because we want to help people. That’s the backbone of this job and it’s gotten more dangerous.”
The line of law enforcement vehicles with flashing lights activated stretched for miles April 17 as the hearse carrying Owen’s body made its way to Glenwood.
“We’ll take him all the way home,” Carbajal said.